There is a major market for apps that track everything from how much time you spend on your computer to how much sleep you get. But what happens when someone else wants to monitor you? That's the question being asked in the wake of a recent lawsuit brought by an employee who claims she was terminated because she refused to use a mobile app that would allow her employer to track her whereabouts even when she was off the clock.
Earlier this month, law firm Alexander Krakow & Glick LLP filed a suit in California's Kern County Superior Court on behalf of plaintiff Myrna Arias, who is suing her former employer, electronic money transfer service Intermex, for $500,000 in damages. Arias alleges wrongful termination, retaliation, invasion of privacy and unfair business practices, among other complaints. Ars Technica first spotted the filing.
Arias was hired to be a sales executive, account manager in February 2014 by John Stubits, the company's regional vice president of sales. Two months later, Intermex requested that its employees download an app onto their employer-issued phone called Xora StreetSmart, according to the complaint.
With the Xora app, users can log their hours and completed assignments, and employers can track employees via GPS when they are, for example, on a sales call or working remotely. When Arias and her colleagues questioned whether the company would track their movements when they were off the clock, "Stubits admitted that employees would be monitored while off duty and bragged that he knew how fast she was driving a specific moments ever since she had installed the app on her phone."
According to the complaint, Arias took no issue with being observed during the work day, but "objected to the monitoring of her location during non-work hours.” She claims that when she complained to Stubits that her privacy was being invaded, he told her she should “tolerate the illegal intrusion" because she was earning more at Intermex than her former employer. "He confirmed that she was required to keep her phone's power on '24/7' to answer phone calls from clients."
Arias disabled Xora from her phone in April and was "scolded" for doing so. She was fired by Intermex in May 2014.
Neither Intermex nor ClickSoftware, the company behind the app, immediately responded to Entrepreneur's request for comment.
Gail A. Glick, one of the attorneys representing Arias, says that while this is the first case like this that her firm, which specializes in employment law, has dealt with, but she says it wouldn't surprise her if there were more around the country.
"Our California constitution since the 70s has protected employees and individuals against intrusions on their privacy even from private entities, not just the government or the police. Our laws may differ from other states in that way, but we may see a trend in other legislatures to change laws that don't protect employees against private actors the way our constitution protects us in California."
Glick argues that Arias' firing was an example of retaliation; hours before she was let go, she allegedly refused to reinstall the app and was asked to sign a written statement waiving her right to privacy.
Glick says that tech savvy and young employees who are used to always being connected to their devices should be cognizant of how those devices are being utilized. "[There] is this notion that it's not just that people are in touch with you, but they have the capacity to track you. You have a right to privacy and privacy is important part of our democracy."